What can you buy with Bitcoin: A beginners guide to spending your BTC
Over the past decade, Bitcoin has grown as a store of value and undergone upgrades to improve its transaction processing capabilities. Various businesses now accept Bitcoin (BTC) as a payment method, both in-person and online.
Despite having higher fees than many other cryptocurrencies, BTC can be helpful for larger transactions — especially considering its impressive security. For a large part of its existence, the Bitcoin community placed a lot of faith in the cryptocurrency becoming a viable alternative to many centralized payment systems existing in the market. However, BTC is currently primarily used as a long-term investment, an asset much like gold or stocks.
The main problem is the number of transactions that the network can process: Bitcoin’s absolute maximum capacity is a mere seven transactions per second. Meanwhile, Visa handled more than 185 billion transactions in 2019.
It should be noted that credit card transactions are not settled right away. Those transactions are queued for days in some cases, while Bitcoin gets criticized for queueing transactions for hours during times of congestion. Like with credit cards, Bitcoin has pending transactions and completed transactions; people frequently conflate the two.
As more and more people start to use Bitcoin and send transactions, the network becomes bloated. Along with the number of transactions, waiting times and — most importantly — transaction fees soar during times of network congestion and fall when usage wanes.
A classic example of this was when BTC’s transaction fees soared due to increased usage and trading in 2017, a period where the token’s price skyrocketed. That made people question Bitcoin’s viability, and several major companies stopped accepting it as a payment method.
Bitcoin has a scaling solution that aims to change that: it’s called the Lightning Network, and it uses state channels to conduct transactions almost instantly, with nominal fees. This network updates the state of Bitcoin’s blockchain after transactions are complete.
Lack of user-friendliness limits the adoption of the Lightning Network. Users currently have to create and deposit to their Lightning channels before they can conduct a transaction. They also have to keep the channel open until the transaction is complete.
The Lightning Network will benefit from Taproot, a Bitcoin update that improves privacy by making Lightning transactions indistinguishable from conventional BTC transactions. There will also be wallets that aim to make it easier for people to buy things with BTC using Lightning, a promising prospect for Bitcoin’s future.
The most significant problem that Lightning solves is making BTC viable for tiny transactions such as a cup of coffee. If Lightning is not used for these small, frequent transactions, high Bitcoin fees could multiply prices.
The second most vital issue is transaction time in brick-and-mortar stores. For example, standing behind a Bitcoin user in the cashier line and waiting over 10 minutes for a transaction to go through would be very annoying.
Lightning may potentially eliminate both of the above issues if it becomes more user-friendly. Once fully implemented, its supporters hope that Bitcoin may actually give Visa a run for its money.
On the other hand, transactions conducted online are still easily done with Bitcoin due to the lack of waiting in line — especially if you’re paying via QR code using your mobile wallet. The growth of online shopping could impact the viability of BTC payments, especially as brick-and-mortar stores are on the decline.
Online stores that accept Bitcoin
- Overstock — a prominent online retailer accepts and fully supports Bitcoin payments.
- Home Depot — a home improvement chain, the largest in the United States.
- Newegg — an electronic retail giant accepting Bitcoin payments for most of its stock.
- Shopify — an e-commerce platform that enables users to create their own online stores, similar to Etsy and eBay.
- Microsoft — one of the world’s biggest companies, allows users to add money to their accounts with Bitcoin.
Most major online retailers still do not accept BTC as a form of payment, but there is a way of buying products from them using digital currency: You can shop with Bitcoin by using gift cards.
Indeed, significant portions of Bitcoin-related transactions are gift card purchases. Gift cards are the simplest way of using the cryptocurrency to buy products from global companies and small local businesses, online and offline.
Service providers that accept Bitcoin
Bitcoin’s acceptance as a payment option varies from company to company. Hence, there are no specific markets where BTC is universally accepted. Instead, there are various companies in different sectors looking to expand their client bases by introducing digital currencies as a new payment option:
- AT&T — a cellular service provider.
- Twitch — a live streaming platform.
- Dish Network — an American direct-broadcast satellite service provider.
- ExpressVPN — a high-speed, secure VPN network.
- NordVPN — a no-log VPN provider from Malta.
- ProtonMail — an end-to-end encrypted email provider.
- Vultr — a web hosting company.
- WordPress — an open-source content management system that allows users to create websites and blogs.
- Reddit — you can buy premium features with Bitcoin.
- Namecheap — web hosting and domain name provider.
- Bloomberg, Chicago Sun-Times — use Bitcoin to subscribe to an online news outlet.
Buying video games with Bitcoin
In the past, you had to visit a physical store to purchase a video game. These days, however, most gamers shop online. Video games are becoming a digital possession, much like digital currencies themselves. So, it is only natural that more and more leading game-selling platforms are accepting Bitcoin.
- Xbox — use Bitcoin to pay for games, add-ons and Xbox Live subscriptions.
- Humble Bundle — a digital store that contributes a portion of its proceeds to charities.
- Big Fish Games — a casual gaming company based in Seattle, Washington.
Travel companies that accept Bitcoin
There are a lot of competing travel-related services, and most of them offer very similar toolkits. Providing alternative ways of payment is a great way to attract new customers. Some services where you can book your dream holiday and pay for it with your Bitcoin include:
- Expedia — one of the world’s largest online travel booking agencies currently accepts BTC for hotel bookings and is planning to introduce it as a payment option for flights, activities and more
- AirBaltic — the first airline ever to accept Bitcoin payment for a variety of flights.
- Virgin Galactic — the world’s first commercial spaceline, owned by billionaire business magnate Richard Branson, accepts Bitcoin.
Nonprofit organizations that accept Bitcoin
- Wikimedia Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual educational content.
- Wikileaks — an international nonprofit organization that publishes secret information, news leaks and classified media provided by anonymous sources.
- The Giving Block — a platform that makes it easy for non-profit organizations and donors to accept and give cryptocurrency donations, respectively.
Donating money to charity often incurs huge fees. Moreover, some people would prefer to keep their donations anonymous for one reason or another. Donating money using Bitcoin provides a way to avoid both of those concerns.
Restaurants and supermarkets that accept Bitcoin
- Subway — you can buy sandwiches with Bitcoin in various locations all over the world.
- Burger King — a large multinational fast food restaurant chain that sells burgers, fries and more.
- Whole Foods — a supermarket chain that sells organic groceries.
Several taxi dispatch and airport transportation services in various parts of the world accept Bitcoin as a payment method.
- Treehouse — an interactive education specialist accepting Bitcoin for a variety of courses.
- Curtin University — a large university in Australia with courses covering architecture, business, engineering, information technology and more.
- The King’s College — a Christian liberal arts college based in New York City.
- European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) — a German university with many international students.
In 2013, the University of Nicosia, a private school in Cyprus, became the first university to offer a Master’s in Blockchain and Digital Currency program. Naturally, you can pay your tuition fees in Bitcoin.
Bitcoin store aggregators
- Where to Spend Bitcoins U.K. — a directory of shops, pubs, websites and other places in the United Kingdom that accept Bitcoin.
- useBitcoins — a platform with over 5,000 listed businesses that accept BTC.
- Coinmap — a map of businesses worldwide accepting Bitcoin.
- Spendabit — a search engine capable of finding specific goods available to buy with Bitcoin.
Luxurious ways to spend Bitcoin
- BitCars — an online marketplace that sells cars using Bitcoin.
- AutoCoinCars — an online marketplace that sells cars and lists their prices in BTC, among other crypto and fiat currencies.
- Bithome — an online, Switzerland-based real estate marketplace where you can buy and sell real estate with Bitcoin.
- Prestige Cars Kent — a dealership that allows customers to purchase cars with Bitcoin.
- Prestige Time — a store that allows you to purchase luxury watches with Bitcoin.
- Denison Yacht Sales — a company that allows you to purchase Yachts with Bitcoin.